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WGPlus provides an in-depth weekly briefing from the UK Government and Public Sector. To save your time, we research & validate the links to websites, documents and further background information. Click here for more about WGPlus

In the News

DH: Are we being softened up for yet another rise in National Insurance? - Health Secretary Alan Johnson has launched a six month debate about the future shape of care & support services. A rapidly ageing population means that in 20 years' time a quarter of the entire adult population will be over 65 and the number of people over 85 will have doubled.

If current levels of service provision & patterns of care continue, public expenditure on Personal Social Services for adults is projected to rise from £12.7bn in 2007, to reach £40.9bn in 2041 at 2005 prices.

The public will be able to contribute to the debate through a series of events and by accessing a new national website. Over the next 6 months, the government will be asking the public & stakeholders at a series of regional events for their views about care & support to create a new system that:
* Promotes independence, choice and control for everyone who uses the care & support system
* Ensures everyone can receive the high quality care & support they need
* Is affordable for government, individuals and families in the long-term

This week also marks the beginning of the £31m Whole System Demonstrator Programme that will test the potential of innovative technologies like Telecare and Telehealth.
DIUS: Will SMEs be able to afford it? - The Government's new draft legislative programme will give employees the legal right to request time to train from their employers. The practical arrangements which employers would follow would be modelled on the existing right to request flexible working. The government claims that employees will be able to talk to employers about their training needs and employers will become more aware of the public funds available to support training.

Employers will be legally obliged to seriously consider requests for training they receive, but could refuse a request where there was a good business reason to do so. Employers will not be obliged to meet the salary or training costs to enable a request for time to train, but the government would expect many to choose to do so, recognising the opportunity to invest in their business.

The government hopes that a new National Apprenticeship Service will lead the drive for more high quality apprenticeships, backed up by a new legal definition of an apprenticeship and a new right for suitably qualified young people to get an apprenticeship.
Press release ~ Preparing Britain for the Future - the Draft Legislative Programme 2008-09 ~ Making Your Voice heard ~ See what is going on in your region ~ World Class Skills: Implementing the Leitch Review ~ UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) ~ Train to Gain ~ Lifelong Learning UK ~ < font color="#800080" size="2">Raising Expectations: enabling the system to deliver (Joint DCSF/DIUS consultation) (closing date 10 June 2008) ~ DIUS – Further education ~ Learning and Skills Council (LSC) ~ National Diplomas ~ Activity Agreements ~ White paper - Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances ~ DfES 14 – 19 Gateway ~ Get set for life website ~ Apprenticeships review report ~ Command paper 'Ready to Work, Skilled for Work: Unlocking Britain's Talent' ~ Unlocking Talent leaflet ~ Leitch Review ~ LSC: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives, Our statement of Priorities ~ Skills Investing in the first steps ~ Connexions services ~ Entry to Employment programmes ~ Care to Learn scheme

UK OC: Help is at hand - A survey from UK Online Centres found that while three quarters of parents knew their kids were regular internet users, 50% didn’t think their internet or IT skills were good enough to supervise or assist with surfing. Topping the list of concerns were internet predators, inappropriate images and fraudsters, but other worries included cyber-bullying and information sharing on social networking sites.

Now parents can learn more about all sorts of internet safety issues – at their nearest UK online centre. They’ve just launched a new myguide taster course – Using the internet safely – to give anyone worried about internet safety an introduction to some of the potential pitfalls and the best ways to avoid them. The course includes basic information on computer security, protecting personal data and helping children stay safe online.

Managing Director of UK OC, Helen Milner, explains: “Everything is made really simple and intuitive – it doesn’t matter if you’ve never even touched a computer before because with myguide you can start from the beginning – set up an email account, search for information and even learn how to use a keyboard & mouse”
WAG: Just like money, you cannot take them with you! - A pioneering campaign aimed at increasing the number of organ donors in Wales has been launched. The Donate Wales – Tell a Loved One campaign, (funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and led by the Kidney Wales Foundation) sees 9 major charities come together for the first time in the UK to tackle the shortage of donors.

Around 470 people in Wales are currently waiting for an organ transplant, but with a shortage of donors many face the reality of having to wait years or even that they may even die while waiting. In the last 5 years, more than 750 lives have been transformed by a transplant and the generosity of a donor. Sadly, in that time 150 people have died while waiting for a suitable donor organ – the equivalent of one person every fortnight.

More than 780,000 in Wales have joined the Organ Donor Register, but that leaves three in four who haven’t. The campaign, which will run until September 2008, is set to get us talking about what we want to happen to our organs when we die and to encourage more of us in Wales to join the Organ Donor Register.
The campaign will also tackle some of the misconceptions surrounding organ donation, such as there being restrictions because of a person’s sexuality. All the major religions support the principles of organ donation.
BGS: We can say it will but not when - Only last summer research published by earth scientists in the international journal Tectonics concluded that geological faults in the Sichuan Basin, China "are sufficiently long to sustain a strong ground-shaking earthquake, making them potentially serious sources of regional seismic hazard." An international team of scientists and colleagues from research institutes in Chengdu, carefully mapped & analysed a series of geologically young faults that cross Sichuan Province like recently healed scars.

The recent earthquake in Sichuan occurred under some of the steepest and most rugged mountains in the world, the Longmen Shan: the Dragon's Gate Mountains. This range, steeper than the Himalayas, is the upturned rim of the eastern edge of Tibet, a plateau that has risen to 5km in response to the slow but unstoppable collision of India with Asia that began about 55m years ago and which continues unabated today.
Industry News: Are you really sure you know what your clients need? – We all know it is not a question of how much money organisations ‘throw’ at a problem but rather how well it is targeted by those designing / commissioning service provision. One way for an organisation to give appropriate staff the skill sets to carry out the necessary research without disruption of day-to-day running of a service can be found with Napier University’s online part time study in Social Research at postgraduate level. The course modules are specifically designed & written for those in established careers seeking to upgrade their skills & qualifications.

Students are guided through the modules online, using a variety of learning objects such as a short piece of reading, a sample of data, a link to another website; a video lecture. The learning objects are the springboard for students’ learning and are accompanied by online & offline learning activities including in-depth readings; online discussions; critical thinking exercises; quizzes; group work. These activities enhance the students’ subject knowledge and develop their evaluative, analytical, problem solving and reasoning skills.

Unlike traditional distance learning, the online environment creates the opportunity for peer engagement and support and for direct contact with tutors. Students can undertake the entire MSc, or can take fewer modules to achieve a Post Graduate Certificate or Diploma.
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General News

DSA: The safety questions asked by examiners at the start of the practical driving tests have been revised & updated and, from 1 July 2008, some additional questions will be included. The number of questions asked will remain the same, but new questions will more accurately reflect the need for candidates to have the skills & knowledge to be safe on the road.
The new questions will cover; the use of wipers, demisters, brake lights, fog lights, head restraints, Automated Braking System (ABS) warning lights and the correct operation of relevant controls and switches.
CIOB: The findings in the latest skills survey by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) indicate that a shortage in skills will continue to be a challenge for the built environment and one that will worsen as the demand for construction work increases.
90% of respondents believed the UK construction industry is currently suffering a skills shortage. 83% of respondents felt that recruiting senior management was difficult, and 84% regarded the recruitment of middle management as difficult in 2008.  This represents an increase of 7% and 9% respectively compared to results from the CIOB’s skills survey in 2006.
MoD: The new national Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards scheme have been launched at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, opening the nomination process for entries. The awards are intended to recognise the people, both military & civilian, working within the Defence Medical Services, NHS, charity and private sector, and the excellent healthcare services they provide to UK Armed Forces, veterans and their dependants.
Closing date for applications is 5 July 2008 and people can self-nominate or be nominated for an award. The awards ceremony will take place on Thursday 23 October at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London.
SESport England has announced the return of Sportsmatch with a new web-based facility enabling applicants to apply online. Designed to encourage new or additional sponsorship investment from businesses, trusts and private individuals, Sportsmatch (funded by Sport England) will continue to offer pound for pound matched funding to sporting stakeholders for projects that encourage sports participation at grass roots level.

The scheme’s awards criteria have been amended to provide greater flexibility for applicants.  From May 2008, partnership funding from trusts and private individuals becomes eligible for match funding.  In addition, applicants will now apply online with telephone support available from Sport England on 08458 508 508.
MoD: The first in a series of UFO files, dating back to the 1970s, have been released on The National Archives' website. The Ministry of Defence files include descriptions of alleged Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon or ‘UFO’ sightings and subsequent MoD evaluations of the reports. To date, independent experts have concluded that there are realistic explanations behind alleged UFO reports, such as aircraft lights or natural phenomena.  
Reports are examined by the MoD solely to establish whether UK airspace may have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised military activity.  If required, sighting reports are examined with the assistance of the Department's air defence experts.  Unless there is evidence of a potential threat, no further work is undertaken to identify the nature of each sighting reported.
MoD: Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth has confirmed that the Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ ARRC) and its supporting elements will move from their current base in Germany to Innsworth in 2010. The MoD is making provision for an estimated 600 families to move to the area and is working with the local authorities in Gloucestershire to prepare for their arrival.
The preferred site is currently occupied by the Defence College for Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE) at Cosford in Shropshire.  Detailed planning for these moves is ongoing.
YF: £400k is being made available for livestock farmers wanting to invest in new technologies that allow them to make better use of their waste, energy and water resources.  The funding, which is being made available through the Regional Development Programme for England is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union, and is managed by Yorkshire Forward in the Yorkshire and Humber area.

The Farm Resource Efficiency Programme will provide up to 40% of equipment costs to a maximum of £20,000 of grant funding per business.  Eligible Technologies include:
* Renewable Energy
* Rain water harvesting/water recycling systems
* Manure management
WAG: The organisations that represent patients’ rights in Wales have several vacancies and are seeking new members.  The 19 Community Health Councils across Wales independently monitor local health services from GPs surgeries to hospital and community services.

Applicants are being sought to the watchdogs, which aim to help the NHS continually improve services it provides patients.  They have a crucial role in representing patients’ views on any proposals to change local health services.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: The physical environment in which the NHS cares for thousands of dying patients is to be transformed as a result of a new £1m programme funded by the Department of Health, led by the King's Fund. Nurse-led teams in 19 NHS Trusts and one prison will work to improve facilities to care for patients at the end of life, the bereaved and the front-line staff who care for them.
The wide range of projects will include; new palliative care beds, improvements to facilities for families & visitors, dedicated bereavement suites and refurbished mortuary viewing facilities. This announcement comes ahead of the government's End of Life Care strategy to be launched later this year, which will hopefully give people greater choice and improved care at the end of their life.
This is the latest phase of the King's Fund's Enhancing the Healing Environment programme and follows a pilot scheme in eight sites on end of life care that was completed earlier this year.
The nurse-led teams will be aided by a new report, published on 24 April by the King's Fund, which both celebrates the success of the pilot programme and explores the impact that improving environments can have on those who receive care or work in end of life care.  The publication includes a literature review, the results of a concurrent action research programme, and the outcome of a key stakeholder workshop.
ScotGov: Young people with visual impairments, or other print disabilities, in Scotland will have access to the best educational material available from next term. From August 2008, they will be able to use the Scottish Books for All database powered by SCRAN, one of the largest educational online services, to access learning materials.

The database will contain a list of adapted materials which teachers can access to ensure that all pupils with additional support needs receive curriculum materials at the same time as their classmates in a format that meets their needs.

Until recently the Schools copyright license only allowed materials to be adapted for those with visual impairment or physical impairment but, from April 2008, the Copyright Licensing Agency agreed to extend the license to cover those who are visually impaired or otherwise disabled which is a much wider definition.

The Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils' Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002 requires that all disabled pupils are able to access the curriculum and that includes ensuring that they have access to accessible curriculum materials.
ScotGov: Minister for Environment Michael Russell has congratulated the Committee of Inquiry on Crofting for the 'radical approach' it has taken in outlining its vision for the future of crofting in 21st century Scotland.

The committee's recommendations include:
* Abolition of the Crofters' Commission and the creation of a new Federation of Local Crofting Boards
* All croft houses are tied to residency
* All sub-lets and tenancies should be approved by the Local Crofting Boards
* Registers of Scotland should be responsible for maintaining the register of crofts
* Reviewing agricultural subsidies including Single Farm Payment, the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme and the Crofting Countries Agricultural Grant Scheme
WAG: Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, has announced the extension of the free rail travel scheme to cover new areas of Wales.  Changes to the concessionary fares rail pilot scheme include:
* An extension to cover the Cambrian Coast railway in the winter.
* The Welsh section of the Wrexham – Bidston scheme from 18 May (Flintshire & Wrexham passholders)
* Free travel Oct. to April between Machynlleth & Pwllhelli (restrictions on school trains) - Gwynedd passholders
* Heart of Wales pilot will be extended for a further year - providing free travel only between October to April
* The Conwy Valley scheme will continue to operate all year.
ScotGov: A five point action plan to help the Scottish fishing industry counter the effects of rising fuel costs has been announced following a recent meeting with the Scottish Fishermen's Federation in Aberdeen. Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead announced that the Scottish Government would:
* establish a Task Force to bring forward steps to help the industry
* seek a meeting with the UK Government to discuss wider issues of the impact of fuel prices
* continue to press the European Union to ensure a level playing field on subsidies
* work with the industry to develop a fuel efficiency scheme (available from early September)
* give immediate help to offset fuel costs, including £400k for the annual maintenance costs of life rafts on every vessel in Scotland and £300k for the cost of the warranties vessels must pay on their satellite monitoring equipment
DfT: Passengers on rural and regional rail services across the country are set to benefit from a £60,000 fund for Community Rail Partnerships. The Designated Community Rail Development Fund will help deliver improvements at local stations, such as more seats, cycle parking and better information for passengers.  It can also help fund awareness campaigns to encourage more people to use these lines.
BERR: Business Secretary John Hutton accepted the recommendations made by Imelda Walsh, the HR director of Sainsbury's, to extend the right to request flexible working to parents of children up to age 16.  The government will now consult on implementing the proposals.
Flexible working arrangements include working from home, part-time work, compressed hours, flexi-time or other arrangements agreed with employers.  These arrangements allow for people to grow their careers and remain in the workforce. 91% of workplaces who received requests in the last year approved them all and BERR's Third Work-Life Balance Survey of employers shows they largely have positive views about promoting work-life balance.
WAG: Welsh Assembly Government Heritage Minister, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, has launched Libraries for Life: Delivering a Modern Library Service for Wales, a three year plan for Welsh libraries. The Assembly Government will be investing £10.5m over the next three years to help deliver the programme, which includes increased funding to modernise facilities in over 20% of public libraries open 10 hours or more a week by 2011.

Another online service being developed by the National Library of Wales is the virtual library, , which has information about your local library and library events and access to online newspapers and reference books available free to library members.


BERR: The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has published a second consultation (closes 0n 20 June 2008) document relating to implementation of the EU Batteries Directive, this time covering just its Internal Market provisions. The consultation includes draft Regulations to transpose the Internal Market provisions of the Directive into UK law that set out the requirements for placing new batteries and accumulators (rechargeable batteries), and appliances containing batteries, on the EU market, including the UK.  These will be effective from 26 September 2008.
The draft Regulations cover restrictions on the use of specific hazardous substances in the manufacture of new batteries and accumulators as well as labelling and marking requirements.  Spent batteries will also need to be readily removable from appliances, unless safety or certain other considerations apply.
The regulations will apply to all batteries - no matter their type or where they are manufactured, whether in the UK, the EU or imported into the EU from a third country.  New batteries and accumulators that do not meet the requirements cannot be placed on the EU market on or after 26 September of this year.
WAG: Deputy Minister for Skills, John Griffiths has set out his vision for reducing the number of disengaged young people in the first of a series of themed papers tackling the issues raised in ‘Skills that Work for Wales’.
The consultation document ‘Delivering Skills that Work for Wales: Reducing the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training in Wales’ sets out the Assembly Government’s proposals to transform learning provision and unlock the talent of young people.  The consultation closes on 11 August 2008 and Skills that Work for Wales, the draft Skills and Employment Strategy, will be finalised this summer.
MCA: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has launched a public consultation (closes 7 July 2008) on proposal for new legislation to regulate ship-to-ship transfer operations in UK waters. The legislation regulates transfers of hazardous substances, including oil, between ships in UK territorial seas so that:
* such transfers can only take place in harbour authority waters and
* the environmental impact of the transfers will be assessed
The Regulations also implement the European Habitats Directive in respect of ship to ship transfer and means that harbour authorities will also have to consider whether there will be a significant effect on any European designated conservation site.
ScotGov: A 3-month consultation (closes on 12 August 2008) on proposals for the unification of court administration in the Sheriffdom of Glasgow and Strathkelvin began recently. As part of the wider reforms of Summary Criminal Justice, the administration of all the summary courts in Scotland will be undertaken in future by the Scottish Court Service (SCS). Following unification of administration under SCS, District Courts become Justice of the Peace Courts.

The consultation paper proposes that a Glasgow and Strathkelvin Justice of the Peace Court is established within the existing buildings currently occupied by Glasgow District Court and that business from Kirkintilloch and Rutherglen District Courts is transferred to this court in Glasgow.
WAG: Consultation (closes 8 August 2008) on a limited update of ‘Technical Advice Note 12 on Design’ was launched by the Welsh Assembly Government last week.  This consultation is limited in scope as it updates the TAN 12 to incorporate the element of Access Statements (which are already required) and the proposed changes which follows the consultation responses to ‘Planning for Climate Change’ issued in (December 2006).
This update describes design statements, a new proposed statutory requirement, and reflects the WAG’s commitment to tackling climate change through the design of new buildings.
Ofwat: Ofwat has published the second part of its review of competition in the water and sewerage sectors.  In it they recommend that contestable water & sewerage markets are opened to competition where it will benefit consumers, and they describe the work they will be doing to enable this to happen.
The document they are publishing invites comments (by 29 August 2008)) on their recommendations to Government for legislative change, and contributes to the independent Government-commissioned independent review of competition and innovation in water markets being led by Professor Martin Cave.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

CLG: The government has published new guidance encouraging local authorities to better map their communities and the people that live there as part of efforts to monitor tensions and promote more cohesive & integrated communities.
The guidance - Local Authorities: Community Cohesion Contingency Planning and Tension Monitoring - is an acknowledgement that tension monitoring plays an important role in helping those involved in promoting cohesion locally, to recognise, name, manage & resolve conflicts that may arise in the process of community change. 
The guidance focuses onwhat councils could do to both prevent & respond to local issues and stresses the importance of early intervention in preventing community based conflicts that can lead to problems with integration and general cohesion within communities.
Press release ~ Local Authorities: Community Cohesion Contingency Planning and Tension Monitoring ~ CLG – Community Cohesion ~ Government's Response to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion ~ Commission on Integration and Cohesion ~ Social cohesion in diverse communities ~ Migrants’ lives beyond the workplace: the experiences of Central and East Europeans in the UK ~ East European immigration and community cohesion ~ JRF’s Immigration and Inclusion programme ~ Updated guidance to Higher Education institutions ~ Q&A: Campus extremism - the new guidance - ~ Community cohesion impact assessment and community conflict prevention tool  ~ Communicating important information to new local residents ~ Predictors of community cohesion: multi-level modelling of the 2005 Citizenship SurveyPredictors of community cohesion: multi-level modelling of the 2005 Citizenship Survey - Summary
ScotGov: Sweets & fatty foods will disappear from menus in Scottish primary schools from this August, as new rules make school dinners the healthy option. The new legislation will come into force in secondary schools from 3 August 2009 to allow them more time to make a phased transition to the healthier menus.  

ScotGov Claims that the Health and Wellbeing message, however, will not stop at the school dinner hall, as ScotGov and Learning Teaching Scotland are also publishing new guidelines on teaching health & wellbeing in schools as part of Curriculum for Excellence - and PE is a major focus. Anyone with an interest can give their feedback by using a questionnaire on the Learning Teaching Scotland website.

Annual Reports

NEOver 5m hectares of land in England, an area roughly twice the size of Wales, are now covered by schemes which aim to conserve our valuable landscape and its wildlife, according to a report published by Defra and Natural England recently.
Environmental Stewardship is a Government-funded scheme open to all farmers, which funds the delivery of environmental benefits through agriculture.  The scheme aims to conserve wildlife, maintain & enhance our landscape quality and character, protect our natural resources, and promote public access to the countryside.
This report also makes a number of recommendations for the future of the scheme, in particular the need to address the scope that Environmental Stewardship has to help combat climate change and help mitigate its effects on wildlife and habitats.
HC: More patients are rating the care provided by NHS hospitals as ‘excellent’, according to a survey published last week by the Healthcare Commission. In the biggest survey of patients staying overnight in English NHS hospitals, 42% of respondents gave their care the top possible rating, up from 38% in 2002 and an increase from 41% in the last survey.
The survey also shows that satisfaction with overall care remains high with the proportion of patients saying their care is “good”, “very good” or “excellent” at 92%. But the Commission added that there were striking variations in the responses of patientsat different NHS trusts, suggesting that some trusts must take more action if they are to achieve the standards of the best.  For example, 77% of patients rated their care as “excellent” in the best performing trust, but only 24% in the lowest performing.
CLG: Action is being taken across government to tackle antisemitism according to Cohesion Minister, Parmjit Dhanda, as he published the Government's one year on response to the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism.
These actions included measures to improve the recording & reporting of antisemitic incidents; increasing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in prosecuting hate crimes, promoting community cohesion & shared values; the creation of a cross government working task group and an increase in the work being done by schools on this issue.
PB: The Parole Board has published its Business Plan for 2008/09, setting out its aims, objectives and targets for the coming 12 months.  The Plan details how the Board will manage the changing nature of its work and workload as it moves towards becoming a fully judicially autonomous court/tribunal and joins the Access to Justice Group of the Ministry of Justice.
SOCA: The Serious Organised Crime Agency has published its 2nd Annual Report - for the year 2007/08. Their work has involved; significant seizures of drugs and the chemicals required to produce class A drugs; more money taken from criminals; increasing use of new tools & powers; and work with the private sector to make crime harder to commit in the first place. On 1 April 2008 the Assets Recovery Agency merged with SOCA.
WO: The Wales Office has published its Annual Report 2008.
DH: In his second annual report, covering the year 2007/08, NHS Chief Executive, David Nicholson, said that the NHS is on track to meet a range of performance measures in areas of key concern to the public such as:
* Transforming the waiting experience for millions of patients
* Improving safety and quality
The Department also published two additional publications on the same date.

General Reports and Other Publications

NAO: Delivering the National Programme for IT in the NHS is proving to be an ‘enormous challenge’ according to a progress report on the programme by the National Audit Office. All elements of the Programme are advancing and some are complete, but the original timescales for the electronic Care Records Service, one of the central elements of the Programme, turned out to be unachievable, raised unrealistic expectations and put confidence in the Programme at risk.
The report concludes that the original vision remains intact and still appears feasible.  However, it is likely to take until 2014-15 before every NHS Trust in England has fully deployed the care records systems, four years later than planned.
ESRC: In a unique study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, researchers found British adult children help their elderly parents according to current need (i.e. health) rather than past behaviour.  This contrasts with other countries such as the US, where parents with a history of divorce see less of their children and receive less help from them.
So in the UK a parent that is living alone is more likely to receive help from children than parents with partners.  Children also give more help as the parent ages.  Curiously, divorced parents get more help from children than if they are widowed, but both groups receive more help than if they still have a partner.  And it helps to have more children; however, step-children give step-parents less support.
ESRC: Images of maths ‘geeks’ stop people from studying mathematics or using it in later life, shows research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Many students and undergraduates seem to think of mathematicians as old, white, middle-class men who are obsessed with their subject, lack social skills and have no personal life outside maths.

Images of mathematicians Albert Einstein and John Nash were labelled as not normal, lacking social skills and being obsessive towards mathematics. But those students who chose to continue studying mathematics for A-level or at university were more likely to regard this obsession as indicating skill, commitment or devotion than madness.  
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has responded to the 'Our NHS, our future' report 'Leading Local Change', which sets the context for the upcoming SHA local visions and the principles which will guide their implementation.
The CRC dossier of evidence, presented to Lord Darzi in response to the NHS review, emphasises the need for flexibility in the design & provision of health care services in rural areas and to avoid solutions that work well in an inner city/urban area but are not practicable in a rural area.
ESRC: The nature of Northern Ireland’s productivity gap and some potential policymaking solutions are outlined in a new publication - ‘Sub-sectoral Productivity in Northern Ireland.  The booklet, funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland) presents the views of two leading experts on productivity - Dr Chiara Criscuolo and Professor Richard Harris.

The growth of Northern Ireland’s economic output has been comparatively strong in recent years.  However, using a variety of productivity measures, the country performs poorly when compared with other European countries, the US and Japan.  Low labour productivity relative to the rest of the UK is one of the key factors behind Northern Ireland’s poor economic prosperity.
ScotGov: A report on serious fraud, published recently by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICS), makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving how the police works with its partners to tackle serious fraud.
It is estimated that on average £330 for every man, woman and child in Scotland is lost through fraud each year.  Figures from APACS show a 16% rise from 2006 to 2007, when £11.5m was lost to plastic payment card fraud alone in Scotland. A recent estimate put the overall loss to the UK as between £13 and £20bn each year.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has recently completed some consultation & discussions on the future for rural proofing.  Their report showed Government policy is still not adequately considering the needs of rural communities. There are some good examples of rural proofing, but it's still not part of the day-to-day work of government departments.
ScotGov: Calls for greater awareness of the need for action on climate change by Scotland's agriculture sector have been outlined by a new report. Other recommendations in the Report of the Agriculture and Climate Change Stakeholder Group include the need for:
* Better communication on how agriculture can adapt to & help mitigate climate change
* Closer policy integration on land use
* Improved reporting of green house gas emissions from agriculture

Legislation / Legal

BERR: The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has announced that the official investigation into Farepak by its Companies Investigations Branch (CIB) has been completed and that the CIB is now seeking independent legal advice on whether the evidence contained in its report merits legal action.
DfT: New powers allowing councils to financially penalise utility companies which fail to give proper notice that they intend to dig up the roads have come into force. Following last month's strengthening of powers to better co-ordinate when street works are carried out, councils can now issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to any utility company which fails to give correct notice before digging up the roads.  Disruption from street works costs the economy about £4.9 billion each year.
SGC: The first revised magistrates’ court sentencing guidelines in four years have been published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. Copies of the guidelines are being sent to over 30,000 magistrates and District Judges in and ahead of their implementation on 4 August 2008and their introduction is being supported by an extensive training programme developed by the Judicial Studies Board.
They have been developed following advice from the Sentencing Advisory Panel which consulted widely and commissioned research on the subject.  Since October 2003, when the last edition of guidelines was published, there have been significant changes to the sentencing framework, including the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the development of guidelines by the Council.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: A new Defra website provides maps showing the level of environmental noise from major industries, road and rail networks in 23 urban areas in England. The information, covering 80,000 km of roads within urban areas, 28,000 km of major road networks and almost 5,000 km of railways, will be used to draw up action plans to reduce unreasonable levels of noise, where practical.
The site also includes information on the number of people exposed to these levels of noise.  All member states have to produce maps under the EU Environmental Noise Directive.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

BIG: Half a million pounds of BIG Lottery Fund good cause money is about to find its way to help more children in Ethiopia to survive beyond their fifth birthday. The children are being helped through the Lottery good cause grant to International Rescue Committee UK.
It is one of a group of international awards totalling more than £3.8m from the Fund to be channelled into improving the lives of people living in parts of the developing world. The funding is going to UK-based NGOs working across several African countries, Peru, Sri Lanka and India.

Business and Other Briefings

OFT: The OFT has launched a market study (to be completed in September 2008) into the ‘sale and rent back’ sector (written views to be submitted by the 14 June). Sale and rent back (also known as 'sale and lease back') arrangements involve individual homeowners selling their property at a discount in return for the option to remain in the house as a tenant.  These arrangements may be taken up by consumers in financial difficulty facing possible repossession of their homes.
The OFT intends to take a detailed look at the characteristics of the sale and rent back product and, bearing in mind the circumstances in which these products are sold, consider whether existing consumer protection legislation is sufficient and effective.
This Brief gives details of an article: Paying tax deducted from interest that is paid by funding bond.

Industry News

Yorkshire looks Forward to revolutionising Future Care - Thanks to assistance from Regional Development Agency Yorkshire Forward, Tunstall, which specialises in telecare, a range of products which enables older people, people with physical & learning disabilities and chronic conditions live independent lives, has developed ADLife which monitors activities of daily living.
The 2-year project, in conjunction with Barnsley Hospital and using a research & development grant from Yorkshire Forward, has developed hardware & software for ADLife to utilise the most advanced level of telecare – level three.
Level three systems use sensors to build up patterns of daily life around the home. Sensors are used in the kitchen on electrical appliances & cupboards and throughout the home to detect how often certain areas of the property have been accessed. This gives detailed information on mobility, nutrition and bathroom usage.
A pattern of normal activities of daily living is established & monitored for a change in routine which may indicate a change in health status. These patterns can be monitored over time to interpret improvement or decline in a person’s condition.
Further information ~
Yorkshire Forward ~ Tunstall ~ See also ‘Are we being softened up for yet another rise in National Insurance?’ in the ‘In the News’ section.

Forthcoming Event

ESRCAre some better at financial planning than others? - Does planning ahead all depend on how much money you have – the rich can afford it and the poor can’t?  Or is it as much about what your background is and the social and cultural groups that you belong to?  Researchers, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, from the Universities of York & Bristol talked to people aged 25-50 who were in one of four different groups.
Across all four groups, how much money people had still made a big difference to their ability to plan ahead. However, views and behaviour were also affected by other factors: the way their parents had dealt with risk, the balance between work and other aspects of life they aimed at, and their beliefs about how much help people can expect from the government.
For religious groups and ethnic minorities, parental traditions were important.  All the religious groups, ethnic minorities and gay people tended not to expect much help from the government if they hit hard times.

Find out more about this and other related research at an international conference on Risk in Societal and Inter-Generational Perspective in London on 17 June 2008 at the Royal Society for Engineering.

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